FC Rostov’s fairytale European run is no more after the south Russian side were edged out of the Europa League last 16 stage by Manchester United in England.
A Juan Mata goal in the 71st minute was enough to win the game 1-0 on the night and the tie 2-1 on aggregate to end a European run that had seen the minnows from the tiny provincial town hold their own against some of Europe’s big guns.
Both sides went into the second leg needing to win to progress to the quarterfinals. Following a spirited first leg display from FC Rostov to hold the 20 times champions of England to a 1-1 draw at the Olimp-2 – a ground where they have already beaten Bayern Munich and Ajax.
That match was notable for the literal warm welcomes given out to Manchester United fans by Rostov supporters in the form of blankets. One was even given to MU manager Jose Mourinho during his news conference.
Rostov began the return leg as they finished the first and were adventurous in attack and pushed United on the break while holding firm in defence to go into half-time with the scores level at 0-0.
But their resolve would last only until the 71st minute when United broke away with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in possession, who played the ball out wide to Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the right wing.
The pacey Mkhitaryan chased to control the ball and play it back to Zlatan who had raced into the Rostov area.
The Swede’s attempted backheel shot didn’t find the target but did set up a perfect assist for Juan Mata, who was arriving at the back post, to slot home with the left-foot.
Rostov still pressed despite going a goal down on the night and in the tie, knowing an equalizing goal would force extra time.
However, it was in vain, despite a long-range Christian Noboa free-kick forcing a save from United keeper Sergio Romero with the last kick of the game.
The final whistle signaled the end of Rostov’s gutsy European campaign on a night where the only other Russian team in Europe, FC Krasnodar, were also sent out by Celta Vigo 2-0 (4-0).
The defeats come as it was confirmed that from next season, Russian Premier League teams will be able to contest for three Champions League places.
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